Press Release

Tate unites JMW Turner’s great Rigi watercolours as it launches a campaign to save The Blue Rigi for the nation

Tate unites JMW Turner’s great Rigi watercolours as it launches a campaign to save The Blue Rigi for the nation:Press related to past news.

Tate Britain
22 January – 25 March 2007

Tate will bring together for the first time ever three of Turner’s very greatest watercolour paintings, The Blue Rigi, The Dark Rigi and The Red Rigi, as part of a campaign to raise £4.95 million to save The Blue Rigi from going abroad.  A temporary export bar has been placed on The Blue Rigi until 20 March 2007 by the Culture Minister, David Lammy. The exhibition at Tate Britain will be open from 22 January to 25 March 2007.

Turner’s ground-breaking use of watercolour, which spanned his career, culminated in the early 1840s with a series of transcendent views of Swiss lakes and mountains. Chief among these are the three views of Mount Rigi as seen from Lake Lucerne. Each shows the mountain at a different time of day and is characterised by a defining colour or tone (Dark, Blue or Red). 

These highly-prized finished watercolours are widely regarded as Turner’s finest works, as well as being arguably among the very finest watercolours ever painted. The Red Rigi has been in the National Gallery of Melbourne since 1947, but the other two Rigi views (The Blue Rigi and The Dark Rigi) have until this year been in private hands, constituting the best of Turner’s late Swiss subjects still outside museum collections. The Blue Rigi is in exceptional condition and would be one of the only finished, full-scale late watercolours to enter the Tate Collection. 

In an unprecedented move, Tate will pledge £2 million of its own funds towards the Blue Rigi campaign.  Applications for funding will be submitted to the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Art Fund.

Stephen Deuchar, Director, Tate Britain said:

Tate holds the world’s greatest Turner collection and the acquisition of The Blue Rigiwould have a significant impact on our ability to reveal the full brilliance of his mature work.  Opportunities to acquire truly fine, finished examples from the late groups of Turner’s Swiss watercolours are nowadays exceptionally rare:  this is a chance we dare not miss.   The exhibition will unite these extraordinary finished watercolours with Tate’s collection of Turner’s preparatory material for the Rigi series, including a sequence of stunning watercolour studies and sketchbooks that highlight the many hours of observation and contemplation that lie behind the finished works, and reveal the artist’s complete creative process.

The Blue Rigi was Turner’s first attempt at recording the moment before dawn when the sun just perceptibly begins to chase away the cool darkness of night.  Using subtly modulated washes of blue, Turner recreates the stillness and wonder of this instant, anticipating by many years the unified tonal approach to image-making of the Aesthetic Movement. 

JMW Turner (1775 – 1851) is considered to be one of the greatest painters Britain has ever produced. The Turner Bequest, left to the nation by the artist following his death in 1851, is the largest and finest collection of his work and comprises hundreds of oils and thousands of watercolours and other works on paper, providing a profound insight into his creative evolution.

The exhibition will be curated by Ian Warrell, Curator at Tate Britain.